Baking great bread requires perfection, and perfectionism is baked into Hi-Rise Bread Company’s DNA: the first location was opened in 1996 by a former food critic. Today the bakery-cafe boasts two Cambridge locations: on Massachusetts Avenue near Harvard Square, and on Observatory Hill. More than a dozen varieties of bread are baked daily, from Nordic Rye to Vanilla Bean. Each is good enough to be savored solo, but an extensive sandwich menu utilizes the loaves in whimsically titled creations like Cash for your Hargo, stuffed with pickled onion and melt-in-your-mouth short rib.
It’s fitting that a city with a famous marathon has a clutch of world-class bakeries. Whether you’re after the perfect sandwich or just seeking a companion for your jam, here are a few of our favorite carb suppliers.
Mamadou’s Artisan Bakery
Mamadou’s Artisan Bakery is a true local gem. Mamadou Mbaye, who co-owns the spot with his wife, Mame, learned traditional French bread-baking while growing up in Senegal—and a decade after emigrating to the US, he opened this Winchester bakery to much acclaim. (A second location in Arlington opened in 2017.) On weekends arrive early to these no-frills spots, where the best stuff sells out quickly. Be sure to try Mbaye’s takes on cranberry pecan bread, sourdough, and brioche—but don’t overlook those croissants.
Brookline institution Clear Flour Bread relies on traditional French and Italian baking techniques to create fresh loaves worth waiting in line for. If you make the trip, you’ll be surprised by the likes of Venetian Olive and Black Forest Rye; check the detailed website to find out which of the 26 varieties are available that day. Those with a soft spot for knotted dough formations, take note: German Soft Pretzels are served on weekends.
North End restaurant magnate Frank DePasquale takes bread seriously, and a visit to Bricco Panetteria is like getting a peek into his secret stash. The bakery is accessed via an easy-to-miss alley behind DePasquale’s flagship Bricco restaurant, and successful seekers will be rewarded with hefty baguettes, spongy focaccia, and prosciutto-and-parmesan studded ciabatta. Those with greater appetites can head to Bricco Salumeria next door for classic Italian sandwiches like Porchetta and Eggplant Parmigiano.
The married duo behind Iggy’s Bread of the World elected to do things the Old World way; from start to finish, making bread is a two-day ritual. Their 16 varieties read like a classic greatest-hits list, from airy Country loaves to sweet Cranberry Pecan. Iggy’s breads are often encountered in local restaurants or grocery stores, but true devotees can visit their North Cambridge headquarters for sandwiches, charcuterie, and freshly baked delights.